Tim Furniss/LONDON

AssureSat will launch the first two satellites for its back-up geostationary orbiting (GEO) network aboard Sea Launch Zenit 3SL vehicles in 2002. The launch agreement was signed through Space Systems/Loral, which is building AssureSat's first two high-power communications satellites. They will provide back-up protection for GEO fixed satellite service (FSS) communication networks when satellites have been lost in launch failures or malfunctioned in orbit.

The AssureSat spacecraft will be equipped with 36 C-band and 36 Ku-band transponders and will operate with 10kW of power. They will be able to provide back-up for television, telephony, Internet, paging, distance learning, point-of-sale networks and other satellite services.

AssureSat expects to have secured more than $500 million financing by July to begin building the satellites and to pay for the launches. The company does not expect a need for further funds and intends its programme to include more satellites than the initial two.

Boeing-led Sea Launch has flown three missions, the first of which placed a demonstration satellite into orbit. The second launch - the first fully commercial flight - was of a Galaxy communications satellite, while the third launch failed to place the first ICO Global Communications satellite into space. The fourth launch, set for late July, will carry a yet-to-be decided payload.

Source: Flight International